In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D’Amato — 9780525950516 — *
Genre: Science Fiction
Time to Read: 24 Days
The year is 2011, and the countdown to December 21, 2012 is well underway. Despite his Maya heritage, Jed DeLanda doesn’t believe in the 2012 doomsday prediction, but millions throughout the world do. One day, the stock-market-made millionaire is on his computer adding to his fortune when he comes across an article that catches his eye. A college professor, with whom he once worked with on a special project based around an ancient Maya game that was used to predict possible future events, has been working on decoding a recently discovered Mayan codex that holds clues to the upcoming apocalypse, and the sacrifice game is part of the project. His ego bruised (He’s using the Sacrifice Game without the best living player on board?), Jed contacts his former mentor and inserts himself into the project. A visit to Marena Park, the woman who has her hands on the pages of the Codex that talk about the sacrifice game that predicted the 2012 doomsday, solidifies his involvement. His task is to use the sacrifice game to try and discover the nature of the person they believe is behind the upcoming disaster. The problem? The sacrifice game’s proper method of play was never written down, and they need to learn to use the same nine-stone game that originally predicted the 2012 disaster to discover who is behind it so he can be stopped. The solution: The team that has been working on the game has also been working out a way to send someone back to 664 AD to learn the game first-hand from its first player. All they need is a volunteer. Jed begs his way into the “time machine,” which will send a copy of his consciousness back to the chosen date and into the body of an ancient Mayan king, which he will take over and use to learn the game. Only, things go horribly wrong, and Jed finds himself in a struggle to survive long enough to learn the game and bury the clues so his friends back in 2011 can dig them up and use them to save the world.
*Please note that this review is one person’s personal opinion. An internet search will reveal several reviewers whose feelings about this book differ from my own. If you wish to read this book and form your own opinion, I encourage you to do so!*
–Spoilers may follow–
In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D’Amato sounds like it should be an excellent book. It should be exciting, full of interesting historical information, and downright awesome, like Michael Crichton meets Dan Brown. The prologue was exciting: A great jump-off point for what is touted as a historical science fiction thriller. I have to say, I was extremely disappointed.
Reading this book first reminded me of a genetics class I took in college. The professor was so knowledgeable about the topic that we would ask him questions and he couldn’t understand our questions because he couldn’t comprehend the fact that his students weren’t grasping the information. He’d re-explain, making things worse, them move on. Only, Jed (the main character who also narrates the novel) doesn’t do it in the kindly teaching-manner. He’s snarky as he explains the Sacrifice game, comparing it to Go and Chess, and not bothering to clarify it for people who don’t play Go or Chess. As though he thinks–knows–that he is better than anyone who doesn’t play highly mathematical or complicated games, so it isn’t worth trying to explaining it all to amateurs, anyway. He just throws out pages of mathematical equations and scientific information that I, a person with a good grasp on science, can’t comprehend, and continues on with a mightier-than-though attitude that no one wants to deal with in reality, never mind in a work of fiction they are reading for enjoyment.
Still, I read on, hoping things would get better.
Then I came across the Ashley issue. There are three characters in this book, all by the name of Ashley. Jed refers to them as A1, Ashley2 and Ashley3 respectively. I’m not quite sure which one is which, aside from Ashley2,who seems to have a bigger role than the other two. One of the Ashleys might have been a man, but I wasn’t quite clear. I may have gotten him/her confused with Lindsay, who was definitely a man.
Still, though it annoyed me, I figured that the author was trying to add a little reality to his book. I know a few people named Ashley. Of course, I can distinguish between them, since I know what they look like, their personalities, etc, but it isn’t uncommon to run into a few people by the same name in the real world. In a book, things get difficult, and it may have been prudent to give them nicknames instead of numbers, but, in the whole scheme of things, it was a minor issue. Sort of. I kept reading: The prologue was good, and I still wasn’t to the going back in time part…
Which turned out not to be actually going back in time. Jed sat in a chair. Marena asked him some questions. He revealed a painful memory from his childhood. The scientist in the other room said: “That’s enough. The information is transmitting.” He got out of the chair, they went to find the information the copy of himself buried for them. He had no memory of what happened when “he” went back in time. He had no connection to the copy of himself. The real Jed was never in any mortal danger.
Of course, it is a little more exciting than that. Upon transmission, the reader gets to follow Jed2 back to 664 AD and watch his ordeal unfold. It’s even almost exciting. It would have been awesome, if it hadn’t been so drawn-out.
Redundancy is one of my pet peeves. That is, I hate it when a writer repeats himself. What I mean by that is, it drives me crazy when an author keeps saying the same exact think over and over using different language, as though it adds to the impact, but really, it just washes everything down and makes me, the reader, frustrated. Brian D’Amato is the master of redundancy. I’ve never come across the term: “As I think I said before” so many times in one book. In fact, I know I have never come across it before. That is, no writer I have ever read has felt the need to repeat himself over and over throughout his entire book. In other words: Generally, authors seem to assume their readers were paying attention the first time they said it and won’t re-state unless there is a real need (foreshadowing in the beginning revisited at the end, for example). Brian D’Amato, as I think I said before, seems to enjoy repeating himself unnecessarily. Throughout the entire 679 page tome. It drove me crazy…as I think I said before.
Despite all of this, there were a few redeeming qualities to the book. A few parts here and there that were genuinely exciting. None as good as the prologue, unfortunately, but the good parts came in waves. The prologue was good, things went down hill until I almost put it away, then things slowly improved to a point, then fell, and so on. At first, I kept reading because I hoped it would get better. Then I got to the point where I was reading it to see how it would end. Then I was reading it in hopes that the main character might die at the end. The ending, however, was on one of the downgrades.
Usually, when I finish a book, I feel some sort of satisfaction or excitement. Something. Even if the rest of the book was kinda blah, the ending redeems it a little. Not so here. The ending of this book dragged worse than any other before. The main character was literally detached from the action, watching it on windows-turned-TV-screens. He never confronts the bad guy. He doesn’t involve himself in the excitement. He just…watches. But the book doesn’t end when the bad guy is caught. They have to move forward a few weeks, first so the girl he likes can tell him he’s not the settling down type she needs and he can spout his own personal philosophy on the 2012 doom they have supposedly avoided. Or have they?
The end of book one? That ended in more of a let-down than a cliff hanger. I think I’ll skip book two.
I think it goes without saying that I don’t recommend this book. If you want to try it, anyway, kudos to you! But if you find yourself 1/4 of the way in and reading in hopes that it will get better, put it down and walk away. It isn’t worth it.
Visit Brian D’Amato’s website here.
Read it? Rate it!